There was an unexpected rush outside the Kerala state owned retail liquor outlet in Puthenvelikkara, near north Paravur, on Thursday morning – but only a few of them were there for alcohol. They were assembled to give a warm welcome to a woman who has won a hard fought battle, and made history in the process.
They were there to congratulate Shiny Rajeev, who has become the first woman employee of a Kerala State Beverages outlet.
43-year-old Shiny first wrote her Public Service Commission (PSC) examinations for the recruitment to Kerala Beverages Corporation (Bevco) in 2010. The rank list came out in 2012, where almost half of the 2000 shortlisted people were women. Some of them got placed at the office of Beverages corporation in Thiruvananthapuram, but a majority were denied jobs, as the department was reluctant to place them in outlets.
The same year, Shiny approached the Kerala High Court, demanding gender equality in the department. Along with Shiny, another woman who was short-listed was part of the petition - but she left the fight after she got another government job. Shiny decided to continue her fight alone.
“Usually they appoint women only in the head office and at the warehouses. But in April 2017, I finally secured the HC order for appointment,” Shiny tells TNM.
The High Court in its order said that restricting women’s appointment in Beverages after shortlisting them in the rank lists is a ‘violation of Article 14 (Right to equality) and 15 (Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth) of the Constitution and are therefore unsustainable.’
“It took five years for me to get appointment. Meanwhile I worked as a last grade assistant in the Panchayath office,” she adds.
But Shiny is not at all sad about the delay in her appointment; instead, she says she is proud that she could courage to other women through her fight.
“We need equality at our workplaces. Not only activists, common women like us should also take our own steps to move forward. I will retire in another 12 years, but many women will follow me I am sure. Bevco MD has told me they will appoint seven more women in the outlets soon. They were ready to change their rules after I won my case. I am happy about it,” she says.
She also says the tipplers were curious to see a woman at the outlet.
“They were surprised to see me inside the shop, but gave me a warm welcome. Even my colleagues were very cooperative. I am not scared to sit in the sales counter, why should we get scared? It is a normal job,” she smiles.
Another thing that kept Shiny going was the fact that her husband, Rajeev, supported her throughout her struggle. “He never discouraged me. He accompanied me to the court and supported all my decisions,” she says.
Speaking to TNM, Rajeev says he is proud of his wife for bringing a change, however small, to the gender biased practices that were followed by some departments, like Beverages.
Edited by Ragamalika Karthikeyan